Nearly every country in the world has some kind of law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Global businesses and U.S. employers considering expanding overseas should be more conscious than ever of the risks posed by sexual harassment.
Without robust sexual harassment policies in place, your business could be exposed to litigation risk and reputational risk in virtually any jurisdiction in the world.
In this post, the Smithey Law Group LLC team will walk you through recent developments on global sexual harassment law and policy. We’ll also provide some examples of sexual harassment policies that have worked for companies in major countries around the world.
Global Evolution of Policies on Sexual Harassment
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic and recent work-from-home conditions of 2020-2021, workplace harassment law has continued to evolve into 2022. Believe it or not, sexual harassment policies and procedures are still relevant and necessary even when your office culture moves online. This is true both inside and outside the U.S.
Below is a brief overview of global policies on sexual harassment. These regulations and policies may help guide your global business in crafting your policies and procedures.
Canada has specific laws designed to protect workers from workplace sexual harassment. As of 2020-2021, most provinces require employers to have anti-harassment policies in place. Most of these laws are embodied in provincial human rights codes or labour codes. We expect that this trend will continue into 2022. Canada’s laws are administered on a province-by-province basis, so aspects of policy requirements vary by province and employer headcount. Two provinces, Quebec and Ontario, require sexual harassment policies to include training. Such training must include content on workplace violence, bullying, and sexual harassment.
Brazil, Chile, and Columbia are all notable examples of countries with sexual harassment laws or policies. Brazil, for example, does not have any mandatory anti-harassment laws or policies, except for a general anti-harassment provision in its Federal Constitution. However, many workplaces are unionized. As a result, you’ll need to check the collective bargaining agreements or other employer documents governing that workplace to confirm whether any sexual harassment policies are in place. It is likely such policies will be in place under a collective bargaining agreement, as anti-harassment policies and training are generally recommended by unions.
In Chile, if your company has more than ten employees, you’re required by mandatory internal regulation to have sexual harassment policies. There’s really no further guidance, so a local Chilean lawyer may be able to advise further.
Colombia may have the clearest and most robust set of rules about sexual harassment policies and procedures. In addition, certain types of sexual harassment are considered a crime. Anti-harassment policies are required. In addition, companies must establish an anti-harassment committee. For global businesses, these sorts of requirements may be welcome when navigating different cultures and norms.
Europe, Middle East & Africa
Sexual harassment law and policy is developing and changing quickly across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. A few examples of recent legal and regulatory developments between 2020-2022 include the state of play, as well as updates in the following jurisdictions:
- Belgium: as of 2021, work regulations must now contain policies on anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and sexual harassment.
- France: where employer headcount is more than 50 employees, the employer’s own policies must include anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies.
- Israel: employers must have sexual harassment policies.
- Netherlands: where employer headcount is more than 50 employees, the employer’s own policies must include anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies.
- Norway: employers must have a sexual harassment policy.
- Saudi Arabia: new anti-harassment regulations came into effect in 2020 that impose stringent new penalties for sexual harassment and require employers to have sexual harassment policies, procedures, and training.
- South Africa: employers must have anti-harassment policies.
- Sweden: employers of any size must have policies and internal processes for preventing harassment, sexual harassment, and retaliation.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the state of play or every change in every country, it provides good perspective of the types of laws regarding sexual harassment policies across these countries. These laws seem to focus more on policy development than training. Hopefully, 2022 will bring a renewed focus on training.
Similar to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the Asia Pacific region has focused on rolling out anti-sexual harassment policies and laws, even during the dark days of the pandemic. A few examples are as follows:
- Australia: in 2021, the federal government introduced “stop sexual harassment orders” and made sexual harassment a valid reason for dismissal.
- India: since 2013 legal reforms were put in place, all workplaces with ten or more employees must have an anti-harassment policy and an internal complaints committee.
- Japan: employers with 50 or more employees must have an anti-sexual harassment policy as part of the company’s work rules.
- Philippines: employers must have an anti-sexual harassment policy.
- South Korea: employers must provide training to prevent harassment. Since 2018, employer policies and procedures for employers with more than 10 employees must contain anti-sexual harassment content.
- Taiwan: employers with more than 30 employees must have internal policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment.
Asia Pacific countries undoubtedly have a focus on both policies and training. Training employees is an important part of helping them understand why are sexual harassment policies so important.
Cultural Challenges in Global Sexual Harassment Policies and Procedures
Workplace culture and sexual harassment policies and procedures go hand-in-hand. Developing a cohesive culture in a global business can be extremely difficult, especially where local norms differ greatly from those in the U.S. It is therefore incumbent upon you, the business owner, to establish a global standard of behavior and expectations that apply across all your workplaces. Training, consistent policies, and fair procedures go a long way in developing an anti-harassment culture around the world.
How Smithey Law Group LLC Can Help Your Global Business
At Smithey Law Group LLC, members of our team have been providing leadership and advice to major business clients for many years. When you’ve got a question about how to develop your employment policies for a globalized workforce, we’ve got the experience to answer your questions. Contact us today to speak with one of our attorneys. We can help you craft the sexual harassment and training materials you need to manage your workforce around the world.